Star Lines
Saturday, February 01, 2003
  If You Pray:  Please say a few words for the families of the six Americans and one Israeli on board the space shuttle Columbia, which has apparently been lost this morning. 
Friday, January 31, 2003
  A Beautiful Mind:  I've mentioned I'm working with my first male editor on the Christian series, and I got his revisions via e-mail today.  My first reaction after reading his notes is wow.  He's meticulous, he's organized, but best of all, he edits like a neurosurgeon -- brilliant, precise, completely pro.  I can tell right now, I'm going to learn a lot from this man.  
  Shameless Self-Promotion:  The short story for February, "Arcanum" is up over at my author web site (thanks to my terrific web designer Willa) and I'm giving away more free books this month, too. 
  Finding the Zone:  Someone (you know who you are) asked via e-mail if I had any secrets on how to write faster.  I think what works for me is self-discipline and planning.  Knowing what I'm going to write when I sit down at the computer is about 99% of it, so I work with research notes and the novel outline, which are clipped to a document holder at the side of the computer so I can refer to them easily.  I outline probably ten times more than other writers, and I spend a lot of time just thinking about the novel, so most of the choreography and dialogue is usually in my head before I start to write.  The notes are just to jog the memory.

You need to be able to concentrate on what you're doing, and I found some interesting techniques here.  I spend about five or ten minutes listening to music or sitting on the balcony watching the birds before I begin working, and that clears my head.  Mental self-discipline isn't hard, once you get into a routine and you train yourself to stop goofing off or making excuses not write every day.  Writers write -- that's all you should be thinking about.

The final ingredient is simply desire.  You won't get anything done if you don't want to do it, or you're afraid of it, or you think you're not good enough.  That's why so many people who want to write fail in the end, I think, because they've already talked themselves out of the job.  I know self-confidence is a tricky thing, but think about it this way: you'll never know what you can do until you try.  So stop worrying and try.  
  Whenever:  I was posting an example of my typical work week schedule over at FM and as I was proofing the post, I wondered if I should knock down some of the quotas or fudge on some of the things I do.  I look at the numbers and it intimidates me to see it laid out in black and white, and I'm the one doing it.  But even with the schedule, time slips away when I write, and I have to set alarms for myself or I'd never remember to do anything else.  As if writing for a living has turned into some kind of enchantment that doesn't seem to be wearing off.

The thing is, it does enchant you, to be able to sit down every day and do what you love.  And to do it for a living?  That's the enchantment and the best Christmas you've ever had every day, rolled into one.  It's a privilege to be where I am and I never want to forget that.  Sometimes when I start whining about the peripheral nonsense I do, and it makes me more determined than ever to devote myself 100% to the writing, and let the rest of it slide away.

And now the writer, who was good and got up early this morning, will toddle off to bed so she can do the same tomorrow, and the next, and the next, or as my kids would say, infinity times infinity. 
Thursday, January 30, 2003
  Up and At 'Em:  It's six am, surely you all are up and getting in a little extra writing time in the morning, right?  I love getting up early; it always makes me feel like I have a jump on the day -- except on those nights when I don't actually hit the bed. :)  Rising early also allows those of us who are parents to spend an hour drinking the morning beverage in peaceful contemplation before the little ones roll out demanding feeding and transportation.  Right now it's so quiet my key strokes are echoing in the room, and my orange tea is steaming gently in my little Japanese mug, and the universe feels a little less crazy than any other spot in the day.  I just finished the web site story for February, will be printing it out for a final edit before I send it off to Willa, and now I'm on to spend an hour on the novel.  Try setting your alarm an hour early tomorrow and see what you can do with some extra pre-day time.  
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
  Let's Do It:  Thanks for all the comments on the follow-the-novel idea.  I don't want to keep you all in suspense, so let me commit now to the project -- we're definitely going to do this.  I've officially dubbed it the Author in the Window project.  I'm finishing up a deadline at the moment, but once this book is out of here I'll get the mailing list started, say around February 15th -- 20th, via yahoogroups.

How it will work: Everything I do will be posted to the mailing list, and I'll start an archive of related documents in Word format that list members will be able to download and study.  You'll have access to everything that comes out of my printer, passes over my desk, or goes between me and the publisher via e-mail.  I'll also share what happens on the selling side -- what my agent does to negotiate the contract, a scan of the actual contract, and a ledger of when I receive the money from the publisher.  If things go well, we may schedule a private chat now and then for list members to discuss things with me.

Some things to consider if you join the project: you'll have complete access to my private correspondence, finanical information and copyrighted material, so obviously I don't want you copying and posting this stuff somewhere else on the internet.  You'll need to agree to keep list information confidential and for your personal viewing only, and if anyone violates that agreement, I'll have to shut it down, call my attorney and take people to court -- which I don't want to do but I will do, so be serious about the amount of trust involved in this.

I'd like to encourage discussion between list members and answer questions that come up, but I won't have time to plow through fifty messages a day, so posting to the list should be limited to the project (I have been a member of mailing lists where the members shoot off little happy notes and jokes to each other, which is nice but not what I want for this.)   I will have final say on who joins the list, who doesn't, and who gets bounced off it.  Also, I will be restricting membership to aspiring writers only (unpublished or lightly published) because I'm probably going to get grief for this from a certain element and I don't want them on the list stirring up trouble.  I'm not doing this for entertainment purposes -- this is to teach other writers about the business of writing -- so fans, please understand and wait for the book to hit the shelves.

I plan to do this with either a fantasy or a SF novel, which could be something I sell this month or one of the books I have under existing contract.  It's a lot to think about, and I still need to check on certain legalities involved, but in the meantime, stay tuned to this weblog for further details.  
  Novelist in the Window:  I have a pretty radical idea, and I'd like to get some opinions from the aspiring writers out there.  What if you could follow the progress of a published novel, from the original pitch to the editor to the final corrections on the galleys?  This would meaning having access to all the correspondence and the author's work as the book is written, revised, copy-edited, etc.  This would include all the e-mails and correspondence between the writer and the publisher, a journal maintained by the author as to the day-to-day stuff, the contract for the book, and anything else involved in the business of writing and selling the novel from the writer's side.  I don't think any writer has ever done this -- not full disclosure -- and I think it would be incredibly helpful for people interested in seriously pursuing a pro career to see exactly how it's done, step by step.

Due to the copyrights involved, this would only work if it was done via a private mailing list, but I'm seriously tempted to do it.  What do you all think?  
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
  When Stretching a Villain:  Check out this article on the "Anti-Hero's Journey." 
  When Stretching in FM Chat:  Try these exercises recommended especially for writers. 
  Smack the Author:  I've been (cough) chastized for not pushing my books for the Hugo award like the other nice Roc authors are doing in various places, but then, I've never been a beggar or very nice, now, have I?  Still, for the benefit of those who are concerned enough to give me crap about it, I will repeat the standing house policy: if any of my books are ever nominated for any award even remotely connected with SFWA, I will yank them off the nom list so fast it will catch on fire.  Nor will I recommend anyone -- though you might pick the author with the longest signature block begging for votes, that's generally indicative of someone desperately seeking validation.

If you want to show how much you like/love my books, recommend them to a friend.  That's reward enough for me. 
  Feel the Burn:  Coming around the final turn for the next novel's deadline, and after that, revisions, galleys and one, maybe two new contracts to negotiate, then (then) I can take my week off.  Out of curiosity I checked my time logs on Phillip and I've been writing and/or editing on computer an average of 12+ hours a day since mid-November.  I track time so I can figure out an average hourly wage for myself every year and see if I'm making minimum wage.  I have (barely) for the last two years, but I think I'll do a little better in 2003.

I have a trio of very strong female characters in the present WIP, with more distinctive personality contrasts than any in my past books, and I like what I'm seeing in dialogue and action from these three.  Since this will end up being a trilogy, I have to establish the baseline relationships for the other two women in the first book, and toss out the first thread leading to book two's conflict.  I can see now that book three is going to be the real challenge; the hero is about as unheroic as he can get and still stay out of villain territory.  He's also just a pain in the posterior who is going to be tough to write however I handle his conflict.  I like the line-up, though, and having New Orleans and the bayou as the backdrop for all three books is a dream come true.  Onward.  
Monday, January 27, 2003
  Nailed It:  Heard from my new Christian senior editor this afternoon; they're delighted with the first book.  This is a huge relief, but writing for a new publisher in a new genre is always a little nerve-wracking.  Looks like smooth sailing from here.  No time to party until after I finished the new Onyx novel, but I think I've earned a cookie.  
  Idiot Quote of the Day:

No, on second thought, it's too stupid and I'm not that cruel. 
  Why I Don't Watch the Superbowl, or Any Football Games:

Darryl Stingley, New England Patriots, quadraplegic due to game injury, August 12, 1978

Marc Buoniconti, the Citadel, quadraplegic due to game injury (college football), October 26, 1985

Mike Utley, Detroit Lions, paralyzed from the chest down due to game injury, Nov. 17, 1991

Lyle Alzado, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and the LA Raiders, died of brain cancer attributed to anabolic steroids, May 14, 1992.

Korey Stringer, Minnesota Vikings, died of heat exhaustion during training, July 30, 2001

It's not only the trained professionals who are crippled and killed by playing football.  Since 1995, for example, eighteen young men playing high school and college football have died from overexertion in the heat during training.  Imagine how long the list would be if I had the names of every person who has been disabled or killed playing this game -- and for what?  Glory?  Money?  Entertainment?  Sorry, I don't get it.  I guess I've seen too many young men in walkers and wheelchairs. 
Sunday, January 26, 2003
  Chip Off the Old Thimble:  Katherine began restoring her first antique quilt today, a 1930's Dresden Plate patchwork lined with a cotton blanket for batting:

That's okay, Mom, I can do this.

She's been asking me for a project of her own for a while now and I found this old beauty, which is about 60% deteriorated and a good starter for stitch practice.  The restoration work is all hand-applique, which Kath is getting very good at, but with simple straight lines easy for her to follow.  I'm insufferably proud, of course.  
Adventures at the KeyBoard

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